Tashi Delek and Namaste from Nepal! I hope you are happy, healthy, and that your neighborhood is free of zombies. The following short piece is an excerpt from the Costa Rica section of the new book, and is dedicated to Zak Aldridge, Amelia Perkins, Leah Ashton-Facin and all the other young people that are busily pounding the dents out of our damaged humanity. Thank you for giving this jaded geezer hope for the future.
Have an enjoyable ascent back into the daylight, everyone. Fearless Puppy /// Doug Ten Rose
Why The Future Looks Good/The University Fights Back
There are young folks around the world, including those here in Costa Rica, who are rejecting fear to embrace love, life, and celebration. Sadly, there is no reason to think that they won’t eventually follow the lead of generations before them by selling their birthright for material trinkets, a false sense of security, and conditioned reflex responses to everything. History often turns out to be more shit than poetry, doesn’t it?
I have faith in them anyway. I have to. It is faith in the young that keeps so many otherwise skeptical old bastards like myself alive and personable. Without it, a lot more of us would be in bell towers with rifles.
I had the privilege of meeting some of these up-and-comers on “The Street of Bitterness.” My landlady and several others referred to one of the University’s bordering streets by this unusual name. I went to a bar on that street looking for intelligence, and found it in a group of students that were stoned, drunk, laughing, and groping each other before noon.
Alfonso was a nineteen-year old soccer scholarship student at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). He owned an abundance of common sense, a strong sense of the cosmic, and an even stronger ability to have fun. “University life itself is the actual crucifixion. Where we are drinking is called the Street of Bitterness, named after the Stations of the Cross. This street has been called that for as long as anyone can remember. The system crucifies our creativity with regressive, conservative attitudes. The good parts of an institutional education are often overshadowed by the indoctrination and obedience-training aspects of it. We come to the bars on this street and drink in order to reverse the direction of the steps that lead up to that crucifixion. We wash away the brain washing with alcohol, to sort of rewind as well as unwind from both the process and the results.”
I asked whether he thought the university’s overall climate felt progressive or reactionary. Alfonso replied, “Both! The administration is more on the side of big business, but the student body itself is much more progressive. The problem for us is that the progressive students are always spread too thin. There are so many protests! There are so many meaningful concerns that a lot of the students become too burnt out to get involved in yet another issue—even when the most urgent ones arise. We sort of get ourselves too watered down, and must somehow learn to be more selective about where we put our energies.”
What an amazing insight for a nineteen year old to have! It would be very nice to be able to think that this guy was an average college student. I had, after all, randomly chosen to speak with him and his friends. The only real qualifications for being approached by me were that the group was close to campus and publicly buzzed before noon. But these people, and especially Alfie, were unusual. He had already spent several months on a full soccer scholarship at the University of Florida, but decided that the benefits weren’t worth living away from his beloved Costa Rica.
This large sign covers the entire front window of one of the most popular among many pizza places on this beautifully infamous street.
“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a family. Choose a big fucking television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose Jesus and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching some mind numbing, spirit crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food in your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your miserable last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the few selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.”
I may complain about the rain in Costa Rica, but never about the Costa Rican sense of humor. This is some very bright darkness from a neighborhood whose average resident is twenty years old!
To me the University of Costa Rica is the capital of this nation. Of course, my little opinion is gleaned from one day of bar hopping off campus. A full four years of matriculation might change that point of view.
Alfonso kept pumping out intelligence that any elder would consider well out of the normal range of a drunken teenager.
“There is a broad difference between social classes here, more so than in America where there is a lot more of a middle class. I am kind of in the middle here. It is a rare situation. I can have friends that are very rich and others that are very poor. This gives me more opportunities to grow and learn. I have a great deal of freedom in many ways. I drink on this street, then work doing research for a law firm for a few hours, then classes, and then study. I work very hard but still feel very lucky—and I have a lot of fun.”
“So many people want to change the world, but a sad lack-of-power feeling frustrates them. I think I have to just be nice and be as much an example as I can of what a better world would be. Nobody changes the world—not directly. We can only change ourselves. In doing that, well, that is how we change the world. These people who think they will change the violence in the world with violent means are fucked up! That is just a way to become what you hate! The only way to change the violence is to change everything you do in your own life to being as non-violent as possible in every aspect and situation.”
These were privileged kids who were using their privilege well. They all loved being where they were. They all loved doing what they were doing. Each had a sense of social responsibility and was very grateful for their opportunities.
I highly recommend a visit to the nearest campus bar for every older person. You may meet some shallow, vain youngsters consumed with unenlightened self-interest—but if you are lucky, you will get to meet people like Arturo, Alfonso, Vivianna, and Andrea. If not, maybe you should try another bar or another campus. It is worth a few-drink investment to find these people. Parts of the conversation may seem a bit laughable, but there is enough genius, hope, decency, and love of life present to encourage any elder. Even the most ornery of jaded old geezers that has been beaten from one end of this massive world’s most bitter streets to the other can appreciate the glow of unmolested hope.
You can trust me on that.